Maine elver harvest on pace to hit record value

The 11 people who won the lottery to be licensed to participate in Maine’s elver, or baby eel, fishery are counting their blessings. So far, the value of landings is the highest it’s been in years, and it seems certain quota will be reached when the season wraps up.

Elvers are coveted as the most valuable fish, by pound, in Maine and Maine remains the only state with a big fishery.

“At just about half way through the season,” says Jeff Nichols of Maine’s Department of Marine Resources , “harvesters have landed over half the overall quota.”

The statewide 2018 annual quota is 9,688 pounds, as it has been for the past three seasons. Preliminary Maine DMR data indicates that just over 5,046.228 pounds with a reported value of $13,087,246 had been harvested by the end of April.

Krista Tripp, a new elver license holder from Spruce Head Island, Maine, says the season has been positive. “It got off to a slow start, but it should be picking up now. I think I should be able to catch up the rest of my quota very soon.”

Even though elver season only runs for 10 weeks, things have been hot since the season kicked off in late March, and average price has remained above $2,500 per pound. At this point in the season, the 2018 Maine catch is valued at over $13 million, and still growing, according to MDMR.

Elvers are valued in Asia, where they are cultured and reared to adult size before being resold in seafood and sushi markets. Prices could keep rising thanks to strong demand, but fishermen and regulators have an eye on potential regulatory changes that could influence price and landings in the future. Last year, the regulatory Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission labeled the stock depleted, and an addendum is currently being considered that would keep the quota as is, or move it to 11,749 pounds. But there is no sign that Maine will make moves to limit the lucratue elver fishery.

The season wraps up by June 7, or as soon as quota is reached, whichever happens first.

About the author

Caroline Losneck is an independent radio producer, filmmaker and documentarian living in Portland, Maine.

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